Improving your health can feel complicated because there’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information everywhere. Things like you shouldn’t eat carbs, keto is the only way, you need to count calories, you shouldn’t eat sugar, blah blah blah. These are things that might lead to short-term, temporary results, but they’re not sustainable for long term success. Why? Because none of these things are teaching you easy and sustainable habits for long term health.
Another thing is that most of these diets are following diet culture, which is toxic and shame-based. At our gym we often say “fuck diet culture”. We say this because of how harmful it has been and continuous to be. Diet focuses solely on your weight and how you look. It teaches harmful ways of having an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. This is why we choose not to follow those shitty rules.
What does work
Be a generalist, not a specialist.
Don’t get caught up in the specifics of what other people are eating and how they’re doing it. Redirect your focus on yourself and see what currently works for you and how you can make small changes in that direction. For example, people say “I need to start eating healthier” what they actually mean is “I need better habits”. Yes, organic food can taste better and yes having a plate full of carefully-chosen veggies might be healthier than pizza, but if you’re not there yet, you shouldn’t be trying to get the specifics down.
Start where you’re at by making simple changes that feel small, but will be building on bigger long-term habits that will create success. The super-secret trick to do this is to be consistent! It has nothing to do with the intensity, but the longevity of the habit.
It’s easy to be super motivated and jump right into the deep end of the pool, but if you didn’t have any swimming lessons then you’re going to sink. The goal here is to learn how to swim in the shallow and get use to the mechanics of swimming in easy water, so that you can gradually build the confidence and endurance for the deep end.
Consistency has a compounding effect which has greater return on investment in the future. Intensity sounds cool and feels productive, but all you’re doing is microwaving your food. You’re an air fryer and deserve to have crispy delicious cooked meals.
So try these habits consistently for the next 21 days
There’s a lot of conflicting data on how long it takes to build a habit. I’m not here to say that you’ll be consistent with these habits after 21 days, but it will give you enough time to start it. That’s all you need to do is get started by trying something new and making gradual changes as you become more consistent. One of my favorite things to do when starting a new habit is the chain game. The chain game is where I use a calendar and write down the habit/habits I’m working on for the month and make an X each day I do said habits. The goal is to keep the chain going every day. When my day becomes difficult or unexpected challenges arise, I still stay with the habit, but turn the intensity down to a level that I can do for that day.
1. Drink more water.
Drinking water is a simple habit to establish. Now I know what you’re thinking “I don’t like water”, “I don’t want to always go to the bathroom”, “I can’t remember to drink water”, “I can’t drink that much”. All of those things may be true right now, but I’m going to give you a handful of ideas to help you overcome these challenges. If you’re not a fan of water because of flavoring try adding in some frozen fruit or a water enhancer like MIO. Let’s say you don’t like going to the bathroom as much, well that’s the cost of being healthy. Forgetting to drink water can happen at times, but there are plenty of things you can do to remind yourself like setting up sticky notes, setting reminders on your phone, having a water bottle with times/markings as to how much you’ve had. Lastly it feels overwhelming to think about drinking so much water, well here’s something wild to combat that thought, start smaller than bigger. For example, if you’re only drinking 2 bottles of water in the day try increasing it to 3 bottles and once that gets easier add another one and keep it going.
2. Plan weekly menus
Remember earlier when I said that you should be a generalist, not a specialist? This is where you apply that concept. When it comes to planning your weekly meals, you shouldn’t be focused on the specifics of it being super healthy right now. Instead you should be focusing on establishing the habit of getting in a routine of planning out the meals you will be cooking for the week. Healthier choices get easier once you’ve established the habit of planning, but you can’t get to that next step until you’ve gotten consistent with your planning. When I first started this habit my menu consisted of frozen meals, pizza, and breakfast food. The goal wasn’t to change what I was eating, it was to know what I was eating. After I got good at being consistent with planning I was able to start adding new and subtle changes into my menu. The main take away is you need to plan what you’re going to eat consistently and once you get good at doing that you can move towards specifics.
3. Find nutritional balance.
Finding nutritional balance can be difficult for a lot of us because most of us grew up in homes where you had to be part of the clean plate club. This meant that you had to eat everything off your plate before you could leave the dinner table. That habit then becomes instilled in us for many years leading into adulthood, which can lead towards over eating. Over-eating becomes unhealthy when you are too full to the point that you are in pain. This is something that I have struggled with in the past, and will still find moments where I need to remind myself of how I feel when I eat too much.
Then comes the opposite end of the spectrum, where you end up following diets that are too restrictive that cause you to under eat. Which can also be harmful towards your health because you’re being too restrictive with the nutrients your body needs. This can lead to lower energy, chronic fatigue, and other harmful effects on your mental and physical well-being. I've learned through many years of practice that diets don't work for those very reasons.
A couple things to try to help find a better balance is by trying out some of the following:
- Add more nutrient dense foods like vegetables and whole grains.
- Focus on how you feel after eating, to see if you feel more energized or lethargic.
- Use smaller plates when eating, this helps with portion control.
- Chew slower when eating meals to fully taste and enjoy your food.
- Try using intuitive eating where you get to explore what’s appropriate for you.
When it comes to improving your health, remember that you DON’T have to keep up with the Joneses next door just because it’s working for them. You get to decide what works for you by trying new things that are better fitting for you. You don’t have to start big to see change, you just need to start small and gradually build from there. Take these ideas, use what’s useful to you and discard everything else.